James “Jamey” Edwards, ILR ’96, MBA ’03
An Unconventional Approach to Career Success
For James “Jamey” Edwards, operating outside of his comfort zone has been a defining characteristic — and has summarized his post-MBA career track. Edwards exited Johnson in 2003, bound for continuing his career in investment banking with Lehman Brothers (he left in 2006, prior to its financial collapse). He allows that banking wasn’t a natural fit upon coming out of his undergraduate experience. Yet he believed it to be an important step toward his long-term goal of being an entrepreneur.
“Early in my career, knowing that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I very purposefully took a job in investment banking and spent a lot of time learning finance and accounting. I realized that as an entrepreneur, I didn’t want the finance guy to pull the wool over my eyes,” says Edwards.
His efforts paid off. Today, Edwards is the CEO of Emergent Medical Associates (EMA), a leading emergency care and hospitalist management provider that serves patients, communities, physicians, and hospitals in California. He has been nominated three times for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and was honored as a finalist this year.
Edwards was hired as the CEO of EMA in 2006, after consulting with the firm since 1996. The reason: his comprehensive skill set. Currently, his responsibilities include driving the vision, strategy, and general direction of the business; maintaining key relationships; and being a resource to his operations teams (he is a self-professed believer in “servant-style” leadership). In addition, as the CEO of a relatively new entrepreneurial organization, Edwards deals with both industry-wide and entrepreneur-specific challenges.
“Our goal is to provide the highest-quality care possible,” says Edwards, but faced with a challenging reimbursement environment related to government programs and insurance companies, “we have to do more with less.” Moreover, since the company has been expanding rapidly (from $18 million to almost $100 million in 7 years), scaling human capital has become particularly difficult.
To address these challenges, EMA steered its focus toward technology and data. “We invested in collaborative project management, support services, and technologies to make sure everyone is coordinated as the organization gets bigger,” says Edwards. At the same time, EMA implemented a new intelligence data platform called DART, which stands for dashboard analytics and reporting toolkit. The platform can be accessed not only by EMA’s director’s and physicians but also by the administrative teams of directors and managers at each hospital partner who are at the direct practice level.
“DART has an easy-to-use visualization tool, so that people are not overwhelmed with data,” says Edwards. He points out that sometimes, with “Big Data” being a key healthcare buzz term, too much data can actually harm decision making, especially in a fast-paced health care environment. “It’s a question of surfacing the right data for the right person at the right time,” he says. Indeed, by incorporating new management and data-analysis technologies, EMA has improved its efficiency and maintained high-quality care despite a difficult and rapidly evolving healthcare environment.
Just like his career planning, Edwards had a long-term vision in mind when he designed strategies for EMA. “We have taken a minority interest in a company called Avanti Hospitals that owns 4 hospitals in Los Angeles,” he says. “I also serve as CEO of Language Access Network, a company that provides remote video interpretation solutions for hospitals.”
According to Edwards, owning hospitals and understanding healthcare language services has helped EMA become a better emergency and hospitalist care provider. “Not everyone would say all those companies necessarily fit together, [but our strategy] has put us in the nexus of all the changes that are happening as a result of health care reform,” says Edwards. The strategy has proven to be successful so far: EMA was named among Healthcare’s Hottest companies for two consecutive years (2012–2013) by Modern Healthcare Magazine and is a 4-time Inc. 500 | 5000 honoree.
Aside from work, Edwards sits on the board of the American Red Cross in Santa Monica and mentors start-up companies at local technology incubator, Start Engine. He also keeps a very strong connection with Johnson. Until recently, Edwards served as the chair of the Johnson Club of Southern California. Whether it is for recruiting or doing alumni interviews, Edwards enjoys coming back to the Cornell campus from time to time, where he spent six years as an ILR undergraduate and as a Johnson MBA.
Yuezhou Huo ’15 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.